Liberia: Officials Charged for Using Gov’t as Conduit for Criminality
Monrovia – Defendants Augustine Weah, Isaac Roberts, Tugbeh C. Tugbeh and Duannah Siryon have spent their third night in detention at the Liberia National Police (LNP) in Monrovia.
Report by Bettie K. Johnson-Mbayo, [email protected]
The defendants were taken to the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission on Monday for investigation but could not be held there in detention due to the absence of a cell facility at the Commission. They were later taken to the police headquarters.
“You will receive into your custody the living bodies of defendants Augustine Weah, Isaac Roberts, Tugbeh C. Tugbeh and Duannah Siryon, all charged with bribery, economic sabotage, and criminal facilitation,” states a police detention slip.
Prior to them going to the LACC, they were processed through the police court’s liaison but could not be sent to court on grounds that they were invited by the LACC.
Record in FPA possession on the investigation conducted by LNP established that on September 16, 2018, approximately 19:00 defendant Siryon, Managing Director of National Housing Authority went to a local hotel in an apparent move to receive money from GELPAZ’s coordinator Emmanuel Tapsoba. Defendant Weah, who purported as ambassador to GELPAZ, accompanied Tapsoba.
The record says during the investigation, defendant Siryon was quizzed whether or not he did receive money from the coordinator of GELPAZ, how much was the amount he received, and for what purpose was the money given?
He (Siryon) denied receiving any money at the local hotel on said date but admitted receiving US$1,000 from defendant Weah at the same hotel prior to the signing of the MOU between GELPAZ Company and NHA.
Defendant Siryon told investigator that after he received the US$1000, he got down to the hotel lounge had a second thought and went back upstairs where he met and returned the same amount on grounds that it was illegal.
On the audio recording where he is heard admitting in the presence of his two deputies and defendant Weah that he received US$80,000, he (Siryon) but he maintained that he didn’t receive any money.
For Weah, he openly told the investigation in the presence of his lawyer that he was present at the hotel when GELPAZ coordinator Tapsoba gave the amount of US$80,000 to defendant Siryon an amount he (Siryon) requested to soften the ground.
In furtherance of his assertion, NHA boss gave him (Weah) 20,000 to him to keep and present it to NHA boss, which he did the next day in the presence of some NHA staff.
Police later interviewed the president of GELPAZ Mr. Alain Zoughan at another local hotel room 3014 where he admitted (Zoughan admitted through his interpreter Dr. Mahamoud Ouadrago) to sending US$92,000 in two fore.
According to Zoughan US$50,000 was given the coordinator in Burkina Faso on September 16, 2018, and US$ 42,000 was given to Benad Bazonon in Burkina Faso on September 23, 2018 to have same given to the GELPAZ coordinator for final presentation to defendant Weah.
When investigators spoke with Bazonon to find out if he received money from Zoughan, he admitted and explained that he delivered the said amount to his former coordinator as was instructed, that the money was given to Weah by GELPAZ coordinator Tapsoba in his (Bazonon) presence.
Additionally, Both NHA Deputy MD for Administration Tugbeh and Engineer Patrick Deline received CFA-210, 000 equivalent to the US $400 while in Burkina Faso.
The investigation also uncovered that on October 24, 2018, defendant Roberts, Deputy Managing Director for Technical services left the country to Burkina Faso at the expense of GELPAZ. While in Burkina Faso, Roberts received CFA- 250,000 an equivalent to US$500.00.
When questioned on the reason for the money, the two deputies (Roberts and Tugbeh) said it was for their keeping.
Police said they established that on several occasion Weah purported himself as President George Weah’s young brother. Investigators also saw one of defendant Weah call cards that carry the title of Ambassador.
He is accused of using the fake identity and went to the local hotel on November 18, 2018, along with two other guys and attempted arresting a member of GELPAZ team that arrived in the country the same date.
An act that prompted the president of GELPAZ to feel insecure and wanted to cancel the MOU between the company and NHA but police reportedly intervened and brought calm.
The police findings revealed that the amount of US $92,000.00 was sent to NHA on two occasions based on a request made to GELPAZ allegedly meant to soften the ground.
Both Weah and Siryon were at the local hotel and received US$50,000 from GELPAZ coordinator.
“That defendants Siryon and Weah were criminally using high profile government official names to solicit money from investors and at no time the duo gave one government official a dime, instead, they used government official names as a conduit to accomplish their criminality.
Police identified the recording as defendants Siryon, two deputies, and Weah and that Siryon received US$1,000 prior to signing the MOU between NHA and GELPAZ.
Meanwhile, the records show that Weah is charged with economic sabotage, Aiding consummation of the crime, criminal solicitation, criminal conspiracy, impersonating official, menacing, theft of property (using deception); these are violation of chapter 10 section 10.4, 10.3 chapter 12.5, 12.35 and 15.80.
Meanwhile, Defendant Siryon is charged with crimes of bribery, criminal conspiracy, economic sabotage, criminal solicitation, aiding consummation of a crime in violation of chapter 10 section 10.4, 10.3 chapter 12.5 and 15.80.
For defendants Tugbeh and Roberts, they are reportedly charged with bribery, criminal facilitation, and economic sabotage, aiding consummation of a crime.
The defendants have spent the statutory time behind bars, which have led their lawyers to file a writ of habeas corpus mandating the police to send them to court.
They will be taken to Monrovia Magisterial court Tuesday, November 27 at the Temple of Justice.